Republican Senate Finance Committee members successfully blocked a “mock” mark-up of three pending free trade agreements (FTA) — Colombia, Korea and Panama.
Ranking Member Hatch (R-Utah) objected to the inclusion of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) renewal as part of the Korean-US Free Trade Agreement. He also objected to the scheduling process because more than 100 amendments had been filed prior to the mark-up.
Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) said in the committee hearing room, with all other Democratic members present, that he was not able to conduct the hearing because Senate rules require at least one member from each party to meet the quorum requirement.
The mock mark-up was scheduled following an administration announcement on an agreement with House Ways and Means Chairman Camp (R-Mich.) to extend the TAA program to the end of 2014. The administration insisted on TAA extension as a precondition for submitting the FTAs to Congress. However, attaching TAA renewal to the Korea FTA was not part of the agreement and is opposed by Republicans who want the legislation considered separately from the FTAs.
A mock mark-up is an informal process which allows the Finance and Ways and Means Committees to present the Obama Administration with nonbinding recommendations on draft implementing bills for trade pacts -- because under trade promotion authority procedures, the bills may not be amended once they are formally introduced.
The House Ways and Means Committee will hold its mock mark-up when members return after July 4. Chairman Baucus said the Finance Committee would reschedule the mock mark-up as soon as possible and that the right combination must be found for passing both TAA and the three trade agreements. After the committees wrap up their mock mark-up process, the next step would be for the administration to submit implementing legislation for each FTA. Once the Administration submits formal implementing language, Congress will have 90 days to approve or reject the pact.